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Costume and Textiles: Recent Acquisitions from A to Z

November 3, 2007–April 27, 2008

The inaugural installation in the Costume and Textiles Study Gallery features a selection of textiles, historic costumes, and contemporary fashions acquired by the Museum during the past decade. Illustrating the encyclopedic nature of the costume and textiles collection, the objects on view include works of amazing beauty and rarity, examples of exquisite workmanship and design, items of historic significance—and sometimes the unexpected. All of the approximately 50 objects on view—from a Neoclassical dress with whitework embroidery from about 1800 to a futuristic T-shirt designed by Belgian artist Walter Van Bierendonck in the 1990s—are part of the Museum's permanent collection of costume and textiles. Remarkable for their depth and breadth, these holdings currently number more than thirty thousand objects, making the collection one of the largest in the country. Acquired thanks to the generosity of numerous donors both of works of art and of funds for purchases, these recent additions illustrate the continued growth and amazing scope of this valuable public resource.


The objects selected for this installation are the products of many diverse cultures, and include an Indonesian ikat man's mantle and a child's rain cape of knotted coir made by the Miao people of southwestern China. They were created for varied reasons: a mid-nineteenth century album quilt served as a token of friendship; a nineteenth-century Japanese robe was a costume for Nō theater; and a hose supporter from about 1905 held up a woman's stockings. A wide variety of textile techniques are represented, as seen in a tapestry-woven wool blanket made in Peru; a Pakistani tunic with mirror-work embroidery; and a block-printed Wiener Werkstätte fabric. The garments in the exhibition range from haute couture—a feather-trimmed ensemble from around 1890 by John Redfern and Sons of Paris and a sequined 1982 Givenchy evening gown—to a "deconstructed" dress from 2000 by Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons. Textile examples include a Burmese kalaga (appliqué hanging), American samplers, and a resist-dyed ndop cloth from Cameroon. Also on view are a pair of Vivienne Westwood's extreme platform shoes, a girl's hoop skirt from the 1860s, and a variety of headwear, footwear, bags, and other accessories.

Main Building


H. Kristina Haugland • Associate Curator of Costume and Textiles and Supervising Curator for the Study Room and Academic Relations

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